OTTAWA -- The federal government is rolling out a series of measures aimed at making it easier for international students who will be beginning their fall semesters taking online courses from Canadian schools, while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.

The government says it will be allowing students to count the time spent studying online while abroad towards their eligibility for a post-graduation Canadian work permit if at least 50 per cent of their post-secondary program is completed in Canada. 

As well, the government is allowing international students who are not able to submit all of the documentation needed to process their post-graduation work applications due to COVID-19-related closures but still want to begin their studies while in another country to do so. 

This is being facilitated through a new two-stage approval process. The new process will allow prospective students to go ahead with their plans upon receiving an “approval in principle.” 

In order to be approved in principle, students need to show they have been accepted to a Canadian college or university and have the ability to pay for it. 

It would then be the responsibility of international students to submit all outstanding documents and be approved before being allowed to enter Canada. 

The full approval requires submitting biometrics, an immigration medical exam, and a police background check.

International students who are staring a program this fall who submit a study permit application before Sept. 15, 2020 are eligible for these new measures. 

“These changes will give students more certainty about their ability to enter Canada once travel and health restrictions are eased in Canada and their own home countries. They mean that students will be eligible to work in Canada after graduation, even if they need to begin their studies online from overseas this fall,” said the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in a statement.

These new measures are in addition to other pandemic-prompted temporary policy changes already made by the federal government. 

Last year more than 650,000 international students were enrolled in Canadian college and university programs, with more than 58,000 becoming permanent Canadian residents.

“The pandemic has had a significant impact on international students and the Canadian institutions and communities that host them,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in the statement.

“We value the contribution of young people seeking a high-quality education in Canada, and we’re making every effort to minimize how current challenges affect their plans and dreams for the future.”